As an administrator, you have a large impact on the culture and climate of your school. Teachers and students will always look to you as the model for what is expected in your building or across your district. At first glance, these strategies may seem too simple, but just like students look to teachers for guidance, teachers are looking to administrators for that very same guidance. The old saying of, “Be what you want to see”, should be your motto both inside and outside of your school.
Improve the culture of your school with these 4 simple strategies:
Greet Everyone, Everywhere
One simple thing that you can do that makes a huge difference in schools is a simple greeting. When we travel across the country consulting to schools, this is one of the behaviors that we see in all schools with a positive culture. This should not stop at welcoming visitors to the school; it should be happening in the hallways, when students and teachers enter the school and when students enter the classrooms. The small acts of saying “Hello!” and asking “How are you?” create a welcoming atmosphere for students, teachers and visitors.
Take this one a step further by going out of your way each day to try to get to know a different student. Asking simple questions can instantly create a bond between two people.
Intentionally Reinforce the Small Stuff
All too often as administrators we are quick to reinforce the large things like improvements in school-wide initiatives, discipline data, attendance, etc. However, we are not as good at reinforcing the small day-to-day achievements of our teachers. Be intentional about finding out where your teachers are struggling with specific students and reinforce small changes in academic achievement or behavior progress. This helps teachers frame success for their students into smaller measures, which helps them to feel less frustrated and helpless by always looking for the big fix. In addition, this helps your teachers and students build momentum for change, and you will often see change happen faster as a result.
Create a Professional Learning Community
Professional learning communities (PLC) are a great way to increase leadership and problem solving opportunities for your teachers. To accomplish this, you must allow teachers time to meet on academic and behavioral issues that the students in your school are experiencing. Often, these meetings will allow teachers to problem solve many of the issues they are facing, resulting in a reduction of office discipline referrals and an increase in academic achievement for your highest need students.
PLCs can also bring an increase in teacher leadership, as well as an increased sense of community, because they are able to work together and feel connected to others, rather than alone and unsupported.
Implement New Initiatives with Teachers Rather than to Teachers
New initiatives, whether academic or behavioral, are part of providing professional development for teachers and helping them to be better at their craft. At times, what we fail to do as administrators is adequately prepare teachers for the change, causing teachers to feel that the initiative is being done to them rather than with them. The result is often a feeling of animosity, an unwillingness to participate and a reduction in a positive school atmosphere. We can avoid this pitfall by creating implementation teams for any new initiative that includes teachers, administrators and informal leaders so that information can be delivered not only from the administration or district, but by your staff as well. This will help teachers accept the change more readily and provide momentum for successful implementation.
As administrators and leaders, we have a responsibility to maintain school culture and make improvements where necessary. The best way to do this is by leading by example. When leadership is strong and committed to having a positive environment, staff and students will thrive. This commitment will trickle down to staff and teachers who will feel more connected to their school and community, leading to increased student success and growth both academically and behaviorally.